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History of the Courthouse
Fayette County > About Fayette County

 

 

 

          More than just a building, the courthouse is the focus of Fayette County, the scene of human drama, the repository of success and failure in life, the archive of the hopes and dreams of thousands. It is also a historic and architectural treasure in its own right.

 

          Its 188-foot clock tower pierces the sky, springing upward from a neogothic castle of sandstone. The structure crowns a gentle rise on East Main Street in downtown Uniontown.

 

          Todays courthouse is the third to occupy the same spot in more than two centuries of the countys existence.

 

          It stands in the current of history, where Main Street once carried the old National Road (now Business Route 40) to its western destination. It is located 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, only 15 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

         

Fayette County was carved out of the southern part of Westmoreland County on September 26, 1783, just as the American Revolution ended and was named for the young French hero of that conflict, the Marquis de Lafayette.

 

The village of Uniontown, which has been founded mill-owner Henry Beeson on July 4, 1776, was designated as the County Seat.

         

One of the two streets in Beesons town had to be angled because of the hilly configuration of the ground; it was called Elbow Street, later Main, and the angle is still there, in front of the Courthouse.

 

The result was a triangular plot, which Beeson set aside as the Central Public Grounds and later sold to the County as the Courthouse locale for the bargain price of six pence. He later threw in another lot.

         

The first Courts in Fayette County were held in December 1783 in a log schoolhouse on the site. Nothing is known of the following 12 years, but in 1796 the first courthouse was built  a two-story brick building, with Dennis Springer as the contractor. Two years later, two detached wings were added for County offices.

 

          Disaster struck on February 4, 1845, when fire broke out in the Courthouse apparently starting in one of the stovepipes or chimneys. Two fire companies from Uniontown fought the flames but the fire was not contained and the roof and entire second story were destroyed.

 

          The records, however, were saved through the heroic efforts of townspeople and County employees. Court sessions were moved to the upper room of the John Dawson Law Building. This building still exists at the corner of Main and Court Streets.

           The County Commissioners contracted with Samuel Bryan, Jr. of Harrisburg on April 12, 1846 for construction of a new courthouse. It was built in graceful Greek revival style with Ionic columns across the front. The building measured 85 by 58 feet, with County Offices on the first floor and Court and Jury Rooms on the second. It was surmounted by an octagonal belfry which contained a large four-faced town clock. Atop its spire sat an 8-foot 2-inch statue of Lafayette carved out of poplar wood by Uniontown artist David Blythe. The new Courthouse opened in March 1847.